In NYC, the New Year’s Eve show must go on — even as COVID-19 cases rise

Dec 31, 2021

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The COVID-19 omicron variant has caused canceled flights, travel bans and more. But one thing it hasn’t stopped? The annual Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop — and the show will go on.

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As New York City ushers in a new year, issues from the previous 365 days, like omicron, remain. COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Big Apple and “shatter” records statewide. However, the city still plans to bring thousands of revelers to Times Square to bid goodbye to 2021 and hello to 2022.

The city had initially planned for an all-out extravaganza of fully vaccinated revelers — in previous years, over one million people have attended the event. Now, just 15,000 vaccinated and masked spectators will be allowed to view the ball drop.

Revelers five years old or over must present proof of a COVID-19 vaccination approved by the FDA or World Health Organization to enter. People unable to be vaccinated because of a disability must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before the event, and they’ll also be required to wear a mask.

And if you do plan to go to Times Square, you may have to wait a while for things to open. Visitors won’t be allowed entry until 3 p.m., much later than in previous years when revelers would arrive in the early morning to reserve a spot.

As the omicron variant spreads across the U.S., driving up positive cases and straining hospital systems, other large cities have canceled or scaled back their New Year’s Eve festivities. Atlanta’s annual Peach Drop is again canceled due to rising COVID-19 figures in the city. Seattle is going ahead with its New Year’s Eve celebration at the Space Needle but has discouraged revelers.

Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio has resisted calls to cancel the event in New York City.

“We want to show that we’re moving forward, and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this,” de Blasio said on Dec. 30 on the “Today” show. “It’s really important to not give up in the face of this.” Incoming mayor Eric Adams is scheduled to be sworn in just after midnight in Times Square.

There are concerns that a large celebration, even outdoors, could worsen the COVID-19 situation in the city. Despite 72% of New Yorkers being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a whopping 41,000 people tested positive for the virus on Dec. 30 alone, according to a New York Times tracker.

Featured photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images.

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